Two state projects earn top awards in national transportation competition

A community-inspired multimodal improvement project that vastly improved safety and travel options in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and a critical traffic interchange redesign and replacement project in Kansas City, Kansas, have been honored as the top prize winners in the 2021 America’s Transportation Awards competition.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s $101.6 million Reconstruction of Salem Parkway (U.S. 421/I-40 Business) project earned the Grand Prize. In addition, the Kansas Department of Transportation’s $30.3 million Turner Diagonal: Partnering for Growth project was voted the People’s Choice Award winner. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, AAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sponsor the annual competition.

“This competition recognizes the effort and dedication that goes into planning, building, operating, and maintaining America’s vast multimodal surface transportation network,” said Jim Tymon, AASHTO executive director. “This vital work didn’t stop during the pandemic and it continues today because transportation is essential for our quality of life and economic vitality. In addition, these winning projects reflect a commitment on the part of state DOTs to work closely with their communities to ensure projects meet the needs of the people who use them.”

The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Reconstruction of Salem Parkway project was the first significant improvement to this historic roadway, which opened in 1958 as the first section of Interstate 40 in North Carolina. Decades later, NCDOT prioritized improvements along a 1.2-mile stretch of the route, redefining it as the gateway into downtown Winston-Salem. The project features a series of safety upgrades and multimodal improvements, including a multi-use path, reduced interchanges, rehabilitated pavement, reconstructed shoulders and ramps, 10 bridge replacements, bike lanes, and two new signature pedestrian bridges.

Due to residential and commercial development and historical properties adjacent to the freeway, this project entailed a significant amount of agency coordination and collaboration and extensive public involvement and outreach. This broad public outreach campaign began in 2006 to ensure robust participation in the environmental process and continued throughout the project’s planning, design, and construction phases.

The Kansas Department of Transportation’s Turner Diagonal: Partnering for Growth project in Kansas City brought together public and private partners to re-imagine a decades-old interchange in order to improve safety, reduce congestion, promote development, and provide better access to public transit.

Built in the 1960s, the original Turner Diagonal Interchange was designed to accommodate tolls. Those toll booths were never installed, leaving miles of obsolete and hazardous ramps, cutting off land prime for development. This project redesigned the interchange and, in addition to making travelers safer and providing more transit access, it allowed for immediate economic benefits and the creation of thousands of new jobs.

The 2021 competition included 80 project nominations from 25 state departments of transportation. Four regional competitions were held and the three highest-scoring projects from each region competed for the final two awards. An independent panel of industry judges selected the Grand Prize winner, while the project receiving the highest number of online votes from the public earned the People’s Choice Award.

Presented at the AASHTO Annual Meeting in San Diego, the Grand Prize and People’s Choice awards each came with $10,000 cash prizes to be used to support a charity or transportation-related scholarship program of the winning states’ choosing. Learn more about the contest and this year’s entries at